By Laurie Coker
Sequels, sequels and more sequels. Angelina Jolie reprises her role from the 2014 film Maleficent, a live-action twist on Sleeping Beauty, in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Jolie along with Michelle Pfeiffer add class and charisma to an otherwise dull and predictable story of good versus evil. Disney, director Joachim Rønning, and a slew of screenwriters simply do not give the film’s stars enough to do or say.
The original film ends with a happily ever after but trouble lurks in the kingdom and beyond. When Maleficent accompanies her god-daughter the lovely Aurora (Elle Fanning) to a formal dinner at the home of her fiancé, Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson replacing Brenton Thwaites). Aurora asks Maleficent to play nice, but it is not long before she and Queen Ingrith, (Pfeiffer) are at odds. Ingrith, however, is more sinister than one can imagine. She purposely provokes Maleficent and all heck breaks loose.
Visually film stuns with magnificent costumes and enchanting scenery and impressive imagery. Rønning offers up spectacular special effects and brings to life an extraordinary array of fairy creatures and vivid characters. Alone the visuals warrant awe, but the story plays out like every other Disney tale – boy meets girl, they fall in love, something (BIG) gets in their way, the marriage is off, no it’s on and on and on and stuff flies – mainly fairies, pixies and Maleficent.
The stars for all their effort, especially Jolie, are wasted. The title seems misrepresentative given the titular character’s limited screen time. Aurora is more the protagonist, and Rønning leans heavily on Fanning, who pales slightly next to the pervasive and ominous Pfeiffer, who demonstrates an unadulterated zeal for the evil attributes of Ingrith. For her time, Jolie pleases perfectly with a sharp wit and wicked tongue and Pfeiffer gives her a worthy adversary – a delightful pairing. Ultimately, the human characters in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil are dull and relatively mindless.
Some sequels should stay somewhere in the shadows and such is the case with Mistress of Evil. The messages are horrific as Ingrith wages war and wipes out an entire species of woodland creatures – just what parents want their children to see on family night at the movies. Overall the film’s grim and dark tone makes it seem unworthy for a younger audience and it hardly harbors a storyline for adults. Even in the insane effort to end with a traditional, trademark happily after, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil fails – genocide with a pretty bow on top is still genocide. The movie earns a meager D+/C- in the grade book. Even a matinee price is too much.